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Weekly Trade Spotlight: Special 301

This week's trade spotlight is on the Special 301 Report, which reflects the Administration’s resolve to encourage and maintain effective IPR protection and enforcement worldwide.

On Wednesday, March 2, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) held a hearing as part of the process to prepare the Special 301 Report, which provides a means for the United States to communicate its concerns about the need to protect and enforce intellectual property rights (IPR) in overseas markets – an issue that is critical to the livelihoods of the estimated 18 million Americans who work in intellectual property-intensive industries. The hearing is part of the ongoing USTR effort to give interested persons an opportunity to inform the interagency Special 301 Subcommittee of issues relevant to the review. The Special 301 Report will be released at the end of April.

Broad consultations ensure that Special 301 decisions are based on a robust understanding of often complex intellectual property issues and help facilitate sound, well-balanced assessments of developments in particular countries. USTR necessarily conducts this assessment on a case-by-case basis, based on the particular facts and circumstances that shape IPR protection and enforcement regimes in specific countries. This process includes close consultations with affected stakeholders, interested parties, foreign governments, and Congress, as well as discussions among federal agencies. Public submissions in the ongoing 2011 Special 301 review can be viewed online at www.regulations.gov, docket number USTR-2010-0037.

On Monday, February 28, USTR released the Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets, which began on October 1, 2010. Previously included in the annual Special 301 Report, the Notorious Market List was released early as part of USTR’s commitment to increase public awareness of Internet and physical markets that exemplify key challenges in the global struggle against piracy and counterfeiting and guide related U.S. trade enforcement actions.

The markets listed include, for example, the website Baidu, which recently ranked as the number one most visited site in China, and among the top ten in the world. Baidu exemplifies the problem of online services engaged in “deep linking,” which provide links to online locations containing the allegedly infringing materials. The list also includes numerous examples of websites involved in BitTorrent tracking and indexing, which facilitate the high speed transfer of infringing materials between users, as well as Internet markets involved in specific activities such as piracy of sports telecasts, Smartphone software and physical products. Key physical markets listed include, for example, Beijing’s notorious Silk Market, as well as numerous other markets from a wide range of countries and regions.

Public submissions for the Notorious Markets list can be viewed online at www.regulations.gov, Docket number USTR-2010-0029.